Evolution and product of evolution

Recently I have been reading a book on protein structure and function and in the very first chapter there was a section about protein evolution. The author begins by saying that according to the theory of evolution, evolution doesn’t have any purpose it just happens. So I started thinking on it, if evolution doesn’t have any purpose then that means the product of evolution which is everything living on the earth according to the theory doesn’t have any purpose. Which implies if a person who believes in evolution says that he/she has a purpose in life is wrong. Because according to evolution he/she just happen to be born and survive due to natural selection. And he/she happen to be doing what they are doing without any purpose.

PS: This post is not to hurt anyone’s believes, it’s just my thought.

7 comments Write a comment

  1. Hi Rohit,
    Interesting post! My views on the topic are very similar to those of Stephen Fry, who has put them far more neatly than I can:

    “The humanist view of the meaning of life is different. Humanists do not see that there is any obvious purpose to the universe, but that it is a natural phenomenon with no design behind it. Meaning is not something out there, waiting to be discovered, but something we create in our own lives.”

    “And although this vast and incredibly old universe was not created for us, all of us are connected to something bigger than ourselves, whether it is family and community, a tradition stretching in the past, an idea or cause looking forward to the future, or the beautiful natural world on which we were born and our species evolved.

    “This way of thinking means that there is not just one big meaning of life, but that every person will have many different meanings in their life.”

    • Hi Rob,

      I like your thoughts and I agree that we do create meaning for ourselves which I and many other like me say God-given free will. And I also believe that we also have a God-given purpose.

      Thinking about evolution I always wonder why evolution has only given this ability to choose and create to humans and not to any other species, not even to our closest primates. I have never heard of any other species doing anything else but what they are designed or created for. A tiger always hunt, a dog always stay loyal to his master etc. But its only humans who have the ability to choose for themselves and sometimes do things which do not seem to be logical or rational. Many species like chimps can imitate or can be trained to behave like humans but they still always stay like chimps in their natural habitat and always do what they do.

      So if evolution is purposeless and nondirectional then why it has been so partial and given such an exceptional ability to have a control over every other species on the earth to humans only. No other species how mighty, powerful or in number can do what we can do and they also don’t seem to be changing much.

  2. Interesting point, although I can think of a few examples of animals adapting in a ‘human-like’ way:

    – Dogs commuting on the Moscow metro from their “home” in the quiet suburbs to “work” begging in the city centre (see e.g. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2013/07/moscows-metro-dogs.html)

    – Dolphins initiating/driving a partnership with fishermen in Laguna, Brazil (http://news.discovery.com/animals/whales-dolphins/helpful-dolphins-120502.htm)

    – Elephants learning to recognise the voices of hunters (http://www.nature.com/news/elephants-recognize-the-voices-of-their-enemies-1.14846)

    It’s also important to remember that while humans are so powerful compared to other animals, it’s nothing compared to the power of microbes: they first introduced high levels of oxygen into the atmosphere, and may well have caused the end-Permian extinction by releasing huge amounts of methane.

    • I am not surprised by these observations.

      Dogs are known to have navigation skills. Atleast I have seen them practically in my life. You can spot a log of dogs on the streets in India and they are capable of commuting long distances on their own using whatever means they can. I know an example, my previous University was on the other side of the Yamuna river which can be crossed through a bridge of around 1000 meters in length. And also by local fishermen’s boat. I have seen dogs trying to get on the boats to cross the river most of the fishermen do not allow but the once who do, dogs find it very interesting. Probably it is the same way dogs like to peep out of the car window to catch the air.

      Dolphins are also known to be social animals and they do come close to humans for various reasons.

      And Elephants are also intelligent species according to animal standards. We have alot of Elephants in India and they are capable of living with the humans and can recognize threats and friends as well.

      But still all of the above mentioned species do what they were already known to do. Its possible that some of the observations were made recently or some happend now because they found other things in their environment to interact with which would not be possible few years ago when those things were not there.

      I have not read these articles thoroughly yet which I will eventually.

      But I did find one article which talks about the same topic quite clearly.


  3. I have to admit, I found that article to put the cart before the horse: the author assumes from the very start that we must have a purpose and must have a benevolent creator, seems to show that the purposelessness (I think that’s a word!) of evolution contradicts this, and so concludes that evolution must be wrong. The possibility that his pre-conceived ideals might instead be wrong never seems to cross his mind!

    In a similar way, you argue that animals do what they seemed to be designed to do and use this as evidence that they must have been designed. It’s also rather curious that you use our ability to behave irrationally or illogically as evidence that we are somehow exceptional and unique, when like-minded Christians denounce many examples of such behaviour as unnatural and as sin. Has evolution been so partial to us, given us such an exceptional ability, so that we could become homosexuals or perform acts of cruelty?

    That life has evolved on this planet into the fantastic forms that we as humans observe is, I think, all the more amazing when one accepts that they arrived there without purpose or guidance. One analogy I can think of that suits this is how much better it feels to stumble across something amazing by accident, rather than being told to experience it: I hated being forced to study Shakespeare at school, and only came to love his works after many years when I started reading them myself on a whim.

    • We were also designed with a purpose and that was to have fellowship with GOD. But our purpose got corrupted when the sin entered, which came along with a lot of things which were not natural at the first place. We are not being forced to experience anything, otherwise God would have not given us a choice to accept Him. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. This verse says we have a choice to accept Christ and a promise that we will have eternal life. He do wants us to explore our lives and create our own purpose, but what He wants the most from us is to accept Him as the creator. It is similar that we want someone to love us by their own wish and not because they are compelled to do it. If God wanted us to obey to Him no matter what then He could have designed us that way. But He created us in His own image and gave us a choice to reach to Him out of love and not by compulsion. You can argue then why God might punish the ones who doesn’t come to Him if we have a free will. He doesn’t want to punish anyone and that is why He gave his son to be sacrificed. But He can not stand sin and the only way to get rid of the sin is through Christ.

      Moreover whenever I think and read about evolution then one thing always bother me that if evolution is a gradual change then why there is such a striking difference between Humans and any other species on the planet. Even the Chimps only have very similar DNA as 99% similar otherwise if we consider the whole genome it is only 70 to 75% similar. If evolution is gradual and we have a common decent then we should have had an intermediate species between Humans and Chimps. And why its only primates which evolved so much that they became Humans and no other species evolved into anything complex like us. I believe when the speciation event would have happened in between primates and whatever then both the species had the equal probability to evolve at the equal rate. And if one species was left behind for some reason then it should be catching up soon. But I can’t see it happening.

  4. I’m afraid I find little persuasive argument in your first paragraph: it presumes the existence of a deity and the undeniable truth of a book, neither of which I can accept personally. No amount of quotation or capitalisation is ever likely to change that.

    Your second paragraph is interesting, and points to questions in biology that are currently unanswered or answered inconclusively. However, it does hint at a bias in your reasoning, i.e. the assumption that humans are the “ideal” form of life and that all other species should be evolving to be like us. Species adapt to thrive in their environments and, as Stephen Hawking is often quoted, ‘It is not clear that intelligence has any long-term survival value’. Chimps and other primates are not evolving to be like us, because there is no evolutionary pressure for them to do so. What they lack in certain forms of intelligence (language, logical reasoning, etc) they make up for in other attributes, such as agility, strength and memory, as these are more useful in their natural environments.

    The reasons for the rapid evolution of human intelligence are not yet proven, but there have been some interesting discoveries and hypotheses. It’s somewhat surprising that in diverging from our common ancestor with other primates, we have actually lost far more genes than we have gained! I find the idea that human intelligence evolved the way it did thanks to our use of fire in cooking to be most likely, but it remains to be proven. There’s a great TED talk on it here: https://www.ted.com/talks/suzana_herculano_houzel_what_is_so_special_about_the_human_brain

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